Mojitos, salsa and revolution ... the tour begins

Havana Travel Blog

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My first glimpse of the Caribbean

Cuba. Just the name conjours up images of cigars, rum, salsa and of course Che and Fidel. It's hard not to fall in love with a romantisised version of the country before even visiting it. A living tableu of 1959 trapped by a dictator that has ruled for over 50 years. The best health care system in the world, 98% literacy, high levels of employment and virtually no homelessness or drug/alcohol additction it's hard to write off the system as totally distructive but it's hard to ignore the hardships of Cuba's people.

Turning up at Costa Rica airport I was really excited to leave the Americanised version of Central America and head to something more exotic and exciting.  I learnt in the airport that the "visa" or Tourist Card that i'd travelled all the way to San Jose to obtain i could actually get at the gate at the airport .

The first supper
... great!  I also learnt that it was nigh on impossible to get CUC (the tourist currency in Cuba - Cuban Copnvertible Pesos) outside of Cuba so I landed at Havana airport armed with only Dollars in my wallet and had to face the first challenge.  Or so i thought. Dollars are accepted at exchange houses. With a penalty charge as well as commission, it's true they're not the best currency to turn up to Cuba with, but not impossible to use asI had been led to believe. 

The next misconception that was shattered within minutes of being in Cuba was that everything was from the 1950's. Not so. The cars on the road are predominantly 1950's American cars, however there were many new cars too. Peugeot, BMW and other well known European, Japanese and English cars sit side by side the old American classics jostling for space.

Driving from the airport into Havana it was hard not to miss the advertising hoardings that would clutter our roadsides, instead there were posters crying "Viva la Revolution!", "Fidel, Raul and the Revolution", "Che forever". It was as if the revolution happended yesterday when in fact it was January 1st 1959 that Fidel swept to power.  It's the equivalent of England still having posters up declaring the triumph of the Battle of Britain.  Strange!  What are they still fighting against?  The Revolution is over no? 

I was also struck by the incredible architecture, a blend of old and new standing side by side saying more about the history of the country than the people can or will. I met my tour group and leader that night. A great group of Aussie, Kiwi and Irish people with only two guys - Todd and Murry who were up to the challenge of dealing with 9 ladies!  Abel was our tour leader and tellingly told us if you can understand just 40% of what makes Cuba Cuba you would have done well. 

So the tentative first steps into my first experience with a communist country begin ...

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My first glimpse of the Caribbean
My first glimpse of the Caribbean
The first supper
The first supper
Havana Hotels & Accommodations review
A good location on the Pablado within walking distance of Havana Vieja. Rooms are basic but comfortable. Showers are sporadically hot, sometimes a b… read entire review
Havana
photo by: mario26